Programming Day – Sept 13th

So many teaching ideas come from looking at the site days of the year celebrated around the world. Sept 13th has many things to acknowledge including Roald Dahl Day – a number one author for children’s books. However, for my ICT subjects it is interesting to see that it is also Programming Day. As we are in remote learning, we will do the following activities to acknowledge them.

  1. Listen to Code Anthem a song on Code or Java Script Rap as students entered the MS Teams live meeting
  2. Walk through the days of the year for September 13th
  3. Watch Roald Dahl and the trailer on the Witches by Roald Dahl on Flipgrid
  4. Looked at the days commemorated on the weekend which included 20 years since 9/11
  5. Sign up for code.org
  6. Complete the dance party challenge. https://code.org/dance after watching the introductory video
  7. “Keep on dancing” at   https://studio.code.org/s/dance-extras-2019/lessons/1/levels/1 or Flappy Game at https://studio.code.org/flappy/1 or any other of the options at the bottom of https://code.org/hourofcode/overview

Reflections on the success of this lesson:-

I tried this with year 7 and 9 and 10. The 9/10 students enjoyed the rap songs and were quite interactive in their knowledge of 9/11. This was a topic of high interest to them. They were interactive in the chat talking about the Roald Dahl books that they had read and the movies that they had seen. Year 7s really enjoyed coding the Dance Party. I enabled them as presenters and some showed the dance moves that they had created to the rest of the class by sharing their screens. Here is an example of one of the student’s dance party coding.

Year 9/10 – one of the students at home, had trouble with level 9 of the dance party. I asked him to return to the live meeting where one of the boys (who is new to our school and just come out from New Zealand) was actually learning at school. I was home. To my amazement, Harby (who was at home) shared his screen with me (I was home) and Matthew (who was at school) and Matthew pointed out the errors in his programming, stepped him through with Harby successfully completing the whole course. Such wonderful collaboration on a remote scale.

A fun lesson

Morale and engagement has been low amongst both staff and students, since the announcement two days ago that we would be remaining in lockdown for possibly up to 2 more months. If this happens Melbourne, will be the longest locked down venue in the world! The Delta COVID-19 virus has increased our daily numbers. Remote learning will continue on!

For my year 7 and 8 ICT class I decided to just do some fun things. My grandchildren had shown me “Guess the Movie in Emojis” on youtube. After talking about special days around the world, students used the chat of MS Teams, Live Meeting, to share the last movie they watched. I then played this video from youtube:-

I paused a little longer before the answer was given on youtuve, to give me a chance to see what they had guessed in the chat. One student asked if they could use their microphone. Before I could say ‘no’, I started to hear excited chatter amongst the students, all using microphones trying to work out which movie they were. Even my quietest of students were providing a voice I felt like I was back in the face to face classroom! I am sure the students did too – they could hear each other, work together efficiently etc.

It was a great activity and I will remember that microphones on (simultaneously) can connect us all in powerful ways when online.

Students then created three of their own “”Guess the Movie in Emojis” and shared in Posts in the ICT Team.

Lockdown 7.0

Staff and students returned to school for Term 3. COVID-19 seemed under control in Victoria at this stage. However, cases were appearing in NSW. I was fortunate enough to go to Melbourne with Year 11 students and our assistant principal. In order to comply with COVID safety, our accommodation had to provide a separate space for us as we could not share any common facilities with other school and community groups. The Hotel Claremont was able to guarantee this. There was another school group but we were in separate wings and had separate breakfast times, with the dining area being thoroughly cleaned out between each group sitting.

We had a great time in Melbourne. It appeared as safe as it possibly could be. Here is some of what it looked like:

Tap on, tap off (myki cards), hand sanitize, check in with qr codes at all entry points, assure the Covid marshal that we complied, hand sanitize again, maintain social distancing, stay in our bubble at our accommodation, navigate trains, trams and buses etc. These activities became part of the daily routine for our Year 11 Melbourne Experience students – a rather different one to the annual Melbourne Work Experience. 

Students were kept busy with a variety of activities that took up the whole day and well into the night. These included taking a ride on the Melbourne Star, watching Space Jam, a Scavenger Hunt through the streets of Melbourne, ice skating, a swim at MSAC, a night walk down Lygon Street, a tour of La Trobe University, time to explore Northlands, laser tag, indoor rock climbing, bounce and the Comedy Club. Time to explore the Victoria Market or shops at Spencer Street was given on the morning prior to departure. Due to media updates, the increasing number of hot spots, etc, students returned home a day earlier. In hindsight this was a valuable call, as a snap lockdown was declared as we alighted the train at 5pm in Warrnambool. This was Thursday. The lockdown started at 8pm. (In the past it would be 11:59pm)

Lockdown 6.0 was to last for 10 days or so. Friday was given to schools and teachers to prepare for the lockdown. Remote learning formally commenced on the Monday after. To our complete and utter surprise, it was announced the regional Victoria could return to school on the Tuesday as the covid samples detected in sewage in Wangaratta was a false reading. Metro Victoria (Melbourne) were to remain in lockdown. This so sudden return to learning, did our heads in as we had ‘psyched’ and prepared ourselves for a minimum of one weeks remote learning or more. Four weeks were then spent back at school but numbers in Melbourne escalated despite tight restrictions and a COVID case appeared in Shepparton on Friday’s numbers. We knew that if a regional case was found it would most likely lock all regional Victoria down. Students were recommended to take their devices and books home with them at the end of the school day. As it was a Friday, a lot could happen over the weekend. However, news filtered through that the single case had grown to 10 or so that Friday afternoon. The news told us that cabinet was meeting, harsher restrictions would be in place and a media conference held on Friday morning. At 11 am, it was announced that regional Victoria was in full lockdown from 1pm on. This gave 2 hours warning! As we were in Port Fairy for a meeting, I quickly joined our son, his wife and grandchild for a take away meal at the beach, watching the ocean roll in. The day was quite warm and sunny. By 12:50pm there was little sign of anyone, anywhere. Shops and restaurants were closing etc.

This lockdown is our toughes yet. Teachers now need permits to go to school. The rules surrounding students who attend school has also tightened up with permits required for essential worker students to attend. Morale is low as our vaccination rate is still not very high. We need to reach 70 to 80% to experience fewer lockdowns but that could be December based on the numbers that we have now and the probable need for children to be vaccinated. Children are now catching COVID as are the younger age groups of our population.

Lockdown 6.0 in Victoria, Australia

Just as we had all settled back at school, having returned for 9 face to face days, and as we had all felt comfortable that a donut day (no COVID-19 cases( had been reported for the Wednesday. It did not seem so concerning that that very same Wednesday afternoon, two cases were reported. This number would go into Thursday’s numbers.

VCE students completed their first Business Management SAC for Semester 2 on Wednesday afternoon. The Olympic games gave us all something positive to follow with Australia doing well with the medals achieved. It was a much needed distraction to the daily COVID-19 updates, especially as Sydney’s numbers were high. On Thursday morning 6 new cases were reported – again everyone thinking this was a manageably number. It was with almost disbelief that I read a msg from my daughter at lunchetime, that the media was speculating a lock-down on Thursday afternoon.

I attended an online meeting with other MIE Expert educators on Wed night. Those in New South Wales and Queensland were reporting their feelings about being locked down. It was with some relief that it wasn’t us for once in Victoria. We have been locked down for nearly 6 months since the start of the pandemic and it is not easy.

Having discussed with our principal whether we were ready to go back into lockdown, it was felt that we should be as students had only really returned. However, I quickly checked with some of the students that they knew their login details for MS365 as MS Teams is our learning platform during remote learning. Two new students were given their logins. There were sufficient laptops and devices for those who needed them, especially the primary school cohort. Our principal were to each classroom after lunch to ask them to take all books home together with their device just in case. The rumours were stating that it would be 3 day lockdown. Imagine our surprise that it was announced that it would be a 7 day lockdown commencing at 8pm. In previous lockdowns, they had started at 11:59pm. How could we go from a donut day one day, and then to a lockdown the very next?

Regional Victoria wondered why it was that they were locked down when the cases were only appearing in Melbourne. It was stated that COVID samples had been detected in Wangaratta in North East Victoria. Today the media reported that that was not so! It seems strange that the whole state is in lockdown, when even New South Wales and Queensland had only locked down metropolitan centres and any specific cities that had cases.

We can only leave home for five reasons, cannot travel more than 5 kms, can exercise for 2 hours with no visitors in homes. Masks are to be worn at all times except in homes. The 5kms rule is impossible for us to follow. As we live on a farm, our nearest major supermarkets are 40 km away. My husband and I have had one Astra Zenica injection and are due for the second shot on August 21st

Morale is fairly low. Vaccination rates are still low and anxiety/stress levels are mounting amongst many. Senior students looked so despondent when they left school as the end of their school year is in sight. It is hoped that this lockdown will only be for 7 days but the Delta variant is especially contagious.

Maintaining a sense of school community during Lockdown!

MS Teams has been an ideal tool both for use within the classroom but also for the whole school. This morning our Assistant Principal ran the full school assembly (years 3-12) from the school. For those students who were at school (children of essential workers, or students at risk), they were able to log in as could all the staff and the students teaching and learning from home.

A screenshot of the live school assembly

Here is what it looked like:

  • an announcement (an option in Teams) was made in the School Assembly Team, alerting all students to the Assembly, commencing at 9am. This meant that the post had an actual heading, was larger and more prominent than text posts and could be coloured!
  • general announcements were made
  • Ms Regan, our talented art teacher had been teaching year 7 how to create lego style avatars. She had been sharing her creations with staff who were delighted with her resulst. She expertly shared her screen to show staff avatars. Students could then guess which staff member they represented either by using the chat, or their microphones. This was a really interactive excercise.
  • Our Principal introduced us to two new students to the school. We were able to see them and learn what year levels they were in.
Students had to “Guess the Teacher”

The challenges:-

  • the text chat was fast and furious and very difficult to keep up with
  • ensuring every student, including the new ones were members of the Team
  • WIth our experience in previous lockdowns, technical issues were minimal and leading staff were confident in running the Assembly.

The Highlights

  • All students remote and at school could all participate
  • At one stage there were more than 91 individual logins
  • The content was engaging
  • Hearing even little things like our school bell in the background brought some comfort.
  • The internet and bandwidth seemed to hold for all – although most remote students turned off their cameras.
  • Every student could interact in the chat.
  • Seeing many of our students and staff at home, when web cameras were on.

Lockdown 5.0 -Remote Learning 5.0

Initially our fifth lockdown was to be for 7 days, but due to the nature of the Delta variant of COVID-19, it has been extended to 14 days and although community transmission is zero at this stage, new exposure sites are being announced from those who are known contacts of patients.

Much to the delight of students and on their first week back, students no longer needed to wear masks inside the classroom. However, this will all change again once we return to school. Our assistant principal reminded us “that we have done this before, and have done it well. Keep in mind the learnings of past periods of remote teaching: keeping things short and simple, making things fun and relevant, reducing usual workload expectations, the importance of checking in with students to monitor their wellbeing, the need for breaks and time away from screens etc”.

Staff at school again embraced MS Teams to connect, communicate and deliver online classes with students. For the first time, years 3 and 4 students were placed in a Team. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

As ICT is an elective at year 9/10, the focus for them is concentrate on the more formal subjects. Therefore, I tend to make the classes as interactive as possible and give them a sense of connectedness and community.

  • playing a fun song or a happy type song on youtube as students enter the room
  • discussing some of the latest news,
  • asking how they are feeling in an animated gif, emoji or text
  • checking out what themes are being celebrated around the world See Days of the Year This has been a great site to trigger further ideas for my ICT classes eg one day it was Tesselations Day which led us to look for a free online tesselation maker. Students had fun designing their own with Tesselation Maker
  • insert a picture of your last meal
  • would you rather……… and more
A sample of a student made tesselation.

Students love to bring their pets to “school” – some are indoor pets and are easily shown via the webcam to the rest of the class. Some are outside, and it is not so easy to show them but some students do it with great flair, using their webcams or phones effectively. Some, like me shared images of pets in the meeting chat – mine was of one of our pet lambs!

The one formal activity that we all completed was “My winter holidays in Wordart” Students submitted their wordart in MS Teams. For the second class of remote learning, I shared my screen in the live meeting and got students to ask questions of each other of share a little more on some things that they did. One year 7 boy had the word Lua in it. When asked he was given permission to share his screen and showed us the world that he was creating in Roblox. Students gave him a virtual applause when they saw it and there were many ‘wows!’ in the chat.

The lockdown continues this week and it is hoped that most students attend the live meetings as part of their virtual classes.

Lockdown 5.0

Our lockdown 4.0 in regional Victoria lasted 7 days, so we hd 5 days of remote learning, with a number of weeks back at school before out 2 week winter break. Melbourne Victoria had an extra week of lockdown but also returned to school prior to the winter break. Everyone enjoyed the holidays as we could travel indefinite kms from home. We had been reduced to a 5km radius. Even though the other states opened their borders to us, cases arose in Sydney, Brisbane and Northern Territory so they were in lockdown. This prevented staff and students from enjoying their booked holidays in those states, instead spending them at home or in Victoria. Masks still had to be worn inside and out.

Year 11 students were due to go a week’s experience of Melbourne, first week back of term 3. It would normally be 2 weeks of work experience but due to the uncertainty of work places opening, they enjoyed a week of activites and explored Melbourne. However, as it got to the middle of that week, there were rumours circulating that a snap lockdown might be declared as the virus had come down from Sydney, COVID-19 numbers were increasing again and exposure sites were also increasing. Our leadership team from school, decided to make us come home one day earlier, which in hindsight was the right decision as it was declared that Victoria was again in lockdown from midnight that day, just as we got off the Warrnambool train.

Whilst in Melbourne, we kept ourselves as COVID safe as possible. More on that in another post! Students were kept busy with a variety of activities that took up the whole day and well into the night. These included taking a ride on the Melbourne Star, watching Space Jam, a Scavenger Hunt through the streets of Melbourne, ice skating, a swim at MSAC, a night walk down Lygon Street, a tour of La Trobe University, time to explore Northlands, laser tag, indoor rock climbing, bounce and the Comedy Club. Time to explore the Victoria Market or shops at Spencer Street was given on the morning prior to departure.

Lockdown 4.0 Remote Learning is Back!

After 3 months of face to face teaching and relative freedom, with masks only needing to be worn in crowded spaces, on public transport and when it is impossible to distance socially, we have community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria once more. A 7 day circuit breaker lockdown was announced on Thursday of last week. Teachers were given a student free day on Friday to prepare for remote learning, and online classes commenced yesterday. Vulnerable students and children of essential workers can attend school. Unfortunately, our numbers of cases are rising, COVID has found its way into aged care homes, and the number of exposure sites is extremely high. Personally, I feel our lockdown will be longer.

Therfore, we are all back to watching the daily Premier’s briefing, media updates and waiting to see what happens next.

Yesterday, was hard. It was hard to get back into online teaching, MS Teams and its fantastic Live Meetings had changed a little but today, the second day is a little easier. Our primary students from foundation to year 4 only have school in the morning. The rest continue with their normal timetable as much as possible but teachers are cautioned not to overload students with work, nor expect them to be on face to face time for the whole day. My VCE classes continue as usual but I try to play music as they enter the virtual room to give time to relax and settle in.

What my ICT (computer classes) looked like yesterday.

On entry, played the song “I don’t like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats. Students discussed whether they agreed with this statement.

  1. We looked at the news for today including COVID-19 numbers, special days acknowledged for May 20th. Macaroon Day was of high interest and I was intrigued to note that most students had not heard of them, nor tried them. In Australia, it is also Reconciliation Week and our last day of autumn.
  2. Students shared how they were feeling in the chat by using an emoji (inserting a gif from MS Teams)
  3. Students found a picture of the last food that they ate and shared it in the chat.
  4. I had emailed each student with a few questions about eg what they did on the weekend and a challenge. They had to write their first and last name all as one word and then put each letter in alphabetical order. They had to reply back to me using email.
  5. Next class I will collate all the jumbled names in a table in MS Word. Students will then unjumble the names.

This all seem to work well, students were interactive. Some chose to keep their webcams on, others remained icognito. The majority of students from each class were in attendance.

Wheel of Names – a simple, favourite tool in 2020

One of my most used online tools over both remote learning and face to face learning this year was the Wheel of Names This might seem strange but the students really engaged with it and I shall explain further on.

It is free, but advertisements do appear but we just ignored them. It starts with a blank wheel. As I had previously saved my class lists for each level, I copied and pasted the list into the “Enter names here”.

If any students were absent for that class, they were deleted. The wheel was clicked, spun around and a winning name would appear together with cheers and party balloons. The named student then had to answer the question or provide spoken input on a topic. Even the shyest of students would interact and it made sure that students were actively partcipating in remote learning and had not muted their webcamera and microphone and not being distracted with other activities or disappeared.

I liked this particular tool as it was so easy to use, simple to add the names of students, would remove the name of the student when they had been selected, remember the names of students who had not interacted from one class to another. It had bells and whistles ie cheers, balloons, the students really had fun using it and it helped me ensure that all were active in the remote learning class. Its big disadvantage was the appearance of advertisements. It has a translate option. An alternative option is the Random Name Picker – which is a bit slower to use and not as visually engaging.

What tools have used most in remote learning?

Christmas celebrations in Argentina

Maria Jose Giavedoni is an amazing educator from Santa Fe, Argentina – always willing to mentor and teach and eager to share her culture and customs. Fom Dec 9th on, she provided the opportunity to connect with her to learn of the Christmas celebrations and customs in Argentina.

As formal classes have finished in our school, we run an alternative program in the last 1.5 weeks of school. Finding suitable times is hard for us as our time zone does not always work. As I had a class at 9am my time on Monday Dec 7th I asked whether we could connect then. It would be Sunday night at 7am for Maria. However, she explained that she only puts up the decorations on Dec 8th, the traditional date for doing so in Argentina. Disappointed, I thought that we would not be able to do it until I saw that I had a class for Coding at 9am on Friday morning. Maria said it suited her.

At 9:10am using Skype, we rang Maria and were immediatley transported into an environment full of wonderful Christmas decorations and treasures. She showed us a Powerpoint presentation outlining the special dates of Christmas, their food and other celebrations. The slides were colourful, engaging animations on the slides, and English text. This helped students get used to her strong Spanish accent and ensured that they understood it right from the begiining.

Then we were taken on a walkthrough her living room. There were so many different decorations in all sorts of places. It was fascinating. Many were similar to what we have in Australia and some were different. Due to safety concerns there are no lights or decorations outside, unlike Australia who often put out many lights and large decorations outside. Their trees are artificial as there are so few real trees growing in Santa Fe and Argentina. Many of our Australian homes still have a real Christmas tree. As Maria has spent time in remote learning for much of the year, she has hand made more decorations. As our school has a large Christmas tree in the front office, three girls walked the laptop up to it and showed Maria. They also took her to the prep-3 classrooms to show some of their decorations.

It was uncanny that at the same time another class had the opportunity to make Christmas decorations. So, it was combined with my Coding class for the first 45 mins. After Maria’s presentation, the students made decorations. Photos were sent to Maria to show what they had done.

Students give Maria a tour of our school and some decorations

What an amazing class! There is still something almost unbelievable and amazing about being able to visit each other globally in the spaces where we live and learn from each other.

Student decorations